Three hours before Florida International University’s (FIU) 950-ton concrete bridge collapsed onto a busy street and killed at least six people, school officials met with the Florida Department of Transportation and engineers to discuss whether cracks found in the bridge were a threat to safety.
FIU stated over the weekend that in discussions of the cracks on the pedestrian crosswalk bridge, which was under construction, officials determined there was no risk to public safety.
“The FIGG engineer of record delivered a technical presentation regarding the crack and concluded that there were no safety concerns and the crack did not compromise the structural integrity of the bridge,” FIU said in a statement Saturday, according to the Miami Herald.
The meeting started at 9 a.m. and ended at 11 a.m. on Thursday, March 15. The FIU bridge collapsed onto SW 8th Street just before 2 p.m., crushing several vehicles and their occupants.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the FIU bridge collapse and says it has not made any determinations as to whether the cracks may have caused or contributed to the crash, though Chief Investigator Robert Accetta told reporters that bridge cracks aren’t necessarily a sign of danger.
The NTSB, however, will look at whether there was any relationship between the cracking and stress tests that were performed on the bridge before it collapsed. The stress tests were intended to measure the “resiliency of the concrete,” according to FIU President Mark Rosenberg.
Just after the crash, Florida Governor Rick Scott and his administration sought to distance themselves from the catastrophe, indicating that the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) involvement was relatively minor and even emphasized that the project was “not a FDOT project (but) an FIU project.”
The Governor is likely concerned that FDOT could be blamed, at least partially, for allowing a busy street to stay open to traffic while the cracked bridge was in the process of undergoing tests to measure the structure’s safety and stability.
According to the Miami Herald, Gov. Scott’s statement blindsided Mr. Rosenberg, who said that FDOT, led by a Gov. Scott appointee, was closely involved with the bridge project.
“We’ve had a good relationship with FDOT — I just want to make it clear,” Mr. Rosenberg told the Miami Herald. “So we’re anxious to find out more about what they think we didn’t do. Because they’ve been involved at every step.” Records show that that FDOT not only approved the FIU bridge design but was heavily involved in the project from design to construction.